Columbus Crew SC delivered on their lofty aspirations from a 25th Major League Soccer season like no other, winning MLS Cup 2020 in convincing fashion in what’s likely the last major game at MAPFRE Stadium, the first soccer-specific ground in league history.
Behind an inspired performance from club-record signing Lucas Zelarayan, the Crew resoundingly beat the Seattle Sounders 3-0 on Saturday night at home, denying Seattle a championship repeat and returning to MLS’s peak for the first time since 2008. The Crew, who entered new ownership in 2018 after a fan-led movement to keep the club in Ohio, overcame incredible adversity to lift the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy.
Zelarayan put an exclamation point on his MLS Cup MVP presented by Audi performance, icing the game in the 82nd minute by making it 3-0. The Argentine playmaker collected a Luis Diaz pass atop the 18-yard box, then lashed home his left-footed shot to the top corner to cap a clutch performance from the midfielder.
The Crew were without winger Pedro Santos and midfielder Darlington Nagbe due to COVID-19 positive cases, though their absences were hardly noticeable – especially during a dominant first half. And Columbus found their reward in the 25th minute when Zelarayan made it 1-0 for the hosts, peeling to the back post and willing a left-footed shot past Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei, making the most of a deep, early cross from right back Harrison Afful.
The Crew doubled their lead six minutes later, with Derrick Etienne Jr. curling home a delicate shot to the far corner. The Haitian international winger earned the 2-0 advantage in the 31st minute, one-timing a right-footed shot with finesse after Zelarayan faked his shot and picked out the incisive pass.
Seattle made four substitutes between halftime and the 60th minute, including both outside backs, looking to recapture the magic of their comeback victory over Minnesota United FC in the Western Conference Final.
Those efforts fell short, though, with Nicolas Lodeiro nearly cushioning home a layoff from Jordan Morris in the 71st minute. Cristian Roldan also came close in the 51st minute when his corner-kick header missed the top corner, and Morris hit the crossbar with a header in the 80th minute. Yet they couldn’t get one past Eloy Room, who finished with with two saves upon his return to the lineup.
Columbus could have banked a third goal in the first half, but Frei reacted well to keep out a powerful Gyasi Zardes shot in the 17th minute. The Crew’s center forward collected a cushioned header from Josh Williams off a corner kick, yet his left-footed effort was denied on the doorstep.
- 25′ – CLB – Lucas Zelarayan | WATCH
- 31′ – CLB – Derrick Etienne Jr. | WATCH
- 82′ – CLB – Lucas Zelarayan | WATCH
- THE BIG PICTURE: The Crew are moving into a new soccer-specific stadium next year, and there’s no better way to welcome that era than this MLS original capping 2020 with a title. They also missed the playoffs in 2019, but were in the Supporters’ Shield race much of this year until injuries took their toll. Add in COVID-19 cases during the postseason, and a lot was going against Caleb Porter’s team. But they buckled down, replacements like 19-year-old Homegrown midfielder Aidan Morris stepped up and they stopped Seattle from winning their third MLS Cup in five years. The Sounders had the “been there, done that” card, yet it didn’t matter in the end.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Lucas Zelarayan was simply stellar for the Crew, providing two goals and one assist. He finished the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs with two goals and five assists in four games, proving why the Crew made the former Tigres UANL midfielder a Designated Player.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: The 2-0 goal from Derrick Etienne Jr. in the 31st minute was absolutely clinical and sent a clear statement. The Crew were all over Seattle in the first half, and this insurance strike formalized how the game would unfold.